“He was the most outrageous gangster of all time – the FBI followed him everywhere,” Munari said. “Many say he was under contract to help the CIA kill Fidel Castro. He was also a guy who wrote beautiful cards to his wife. The auction features the good and the bad of a notorious crime boss.”
No, we don’t believe in coincidences. If there’s anything we believe in politics, it’s that muscle talks and that there’s always a guy behind the guy.
But even in Chicago we have our own fairy tales. Currently, there’s one helping push the construction of a presidential library on the South Side.
This one is based on the premise that a young fellow with hardly any experience showed up one day and pulled the sword from the stone, and was subsequently swept up on the winds of reform and government transparency and flown all the way to Washington.
But that’s future history.
And he pushed the Chicago Outfit — and their servants across the country — to back Kennedy in the 1960 presidential election.
One of Kennedy’s great fans in show business, the famed singer Frank Sinatra, was also a conduit to Giancana and organized crime in that election.
Then Kennedy and his brother Robert — who was installed as attorney general — broke bad on the Chicago Outfit.
“That photograph was from the time my dad liked Sinatra,” Giancana told me. “They had a falling out.”
Yes, I said, they certainly did.
In 1975, Giancana was shot in the back of the head at his Oak Park home while cooking his favorite meal of peppers and sausage. The next year, Sinatra finally made his way back to Chicago.
“I don’t think my father liked him later on in life,” Antoinette Giancana said. “But he could sing.”
She talked of the items in the collection, the documents and the photos, and I told her what she already knew: That her father was once king of this city.
“Yeah, there was a time when my father was king of the city,” Giancana said. “I wish to hell he still was king. But he’s not, and I’m old.”
The Giancana collection will be auctioned by Munari Auctions, and there are more than 100 items available for bid. There are documents relating to Giancana’s murder and photographs of the gun that was used. But there are other personal items.
Included among them is a tiny pepper grinder Giancana is said to have kept in his pocket as a lucky charm.
Also, there are drink coasters with Giancana’s initials, silverware, handmade furniture fit for an Outfit boss and, of course, plenty of documents to delight historians.
What fascinated me is a strange device, described as a 4-inch-long gold drink stirrer.
You pull the base, wires flare out and the flared wires are apparently inserted into your drink to stir your cocktail.
Or, back in the day, say if you were a mob boss with control of Las Vegas, Hollywood, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Kansas City, Miami, New Orleans and other burgs, you might think about using the gold drink stirrer in other ways.
Like inserting it into the nose of elected officials.
Especially if, say, any of those elected officials just heard some stirring bagpipe music and fancied themselves truly independent and powerful. Then you could just jab the whole thing into a mayoral nostril, pull the base and twirl the flared wires to disabuse any mayor of his fantasies.
Geno Munari, of Munari Auctions, said the Sinatra-Giancana photo is his favorite.
“One of the interesting things is the photo of Giancana with Sinatra,” Munari told me. “There’s a great story behind it.”
I almost wanted to say: “I ain’t no bandleader.” But I didn’t.
Unfortunately, Munari told me that none of the items involves Kennedy and Giancana.
And I was hoping to see the appointment calendar of Giancana girlfriend Judith Exner, described once as a “raven-haired beauty,” who also reportedly shared her favors with Kennedy.
“No appointment book,” Munari said.
So I called Antoinette Giancana and asked her.
“Nothing of my dad and Kennedy,” she said.
Well, any Chicago paperweights made from the heads of politicians?
“No,” she said.
How about a leather leash that your dad used to remind politicians who ran things in the day?
“Oh, you’re being funny,” she said. “But there is no leash.”
I really don’t think he needed one.
“John, I wish I had a shirt of his or a cufflink,” Giancana told me. “But I don’t even have a toothpick of his. Not even a toothpick.
“But there is that silver set. And the baby spoon, somebody gave that to my dad, that’s in the auction.”
And the frying pan?
“What frying pan?” Giancana asked.
That frying pan he was using to make peppers and sausage when he was killed by a friend.
“Peppers and sausage, I know that’s your favorite,” Giancana said. “If I only had the pan. I don’t know who has it. That would really be worth something.”